Could you live with no mobile?

Could you live with no mobile?. INCESSANT ringing in the ears is usually recognised as a sign of tinnitus. But in today's technology-driven society, it could be a symptom of a disturbing new phenomenon

Nomophobia – the fear of being separated from your mobile phone – has been identified by doctors as an increasing problem in our 24/7 society. Sufferers have been shown to display alarming anxiety levels, comparable to other stressful events such as wedding days and visits to the dentist.
Nomophobes are addicted to feeling connected. You probably know one, or perhaps you are one.

Do you get the sweats when your mobile is showing only one bar on the battery and you are nowhere near a charger? Do you often imagine your phone is ringing when no one is calling? Have you ever got up out of bed to check your messages?

Consumer behaviour researcher Diana James from Queensland University of Technology recently conducted a study of mobile phone users. She is presently writing up her findings.

A total of 2500 Queenslanders took part in the study, in which Ms James concluded that 20 per cent were potentially addicted to their mobile phones.

Most people find directives to turn off mobile phones in places such as airports and hospitals nothing more than a minor inconvenience. But Ms James says nomophobes can experience acute stress, similar to that felt by an alcoholic in a bar.

"When you have obsessive thoughts about anything, it can become a problem," she says. "There are phone users who are ruled by the device. They find it almost impossible to be unreachable. They simply must check their messages. There is a chemical reaction in their bodies – a mounting tension.

"Perhaps if they have been in the doctors or at an appointment, they can't wait to get out to check if anyone called. It may be a behavioural habit or for some they have low self-esteem. They feel the need to build up their image or identity. Rushing to check messages makes them look more significant in life.

"During the study I was told many times 'I use the phone to make me feel better or to escape my problems'.

"Unfortunately, dependency is in fact adding to their problems. They rack up debt, they find it difficult to have face-to- face relationships because most of their communication is done with their texting thumb . . . their work and productivity can suffer."

So how did society get so wrapped up in mobile connection?

"I believe our behaviour struggles to keep up with the rapid changes in technology," Ms James says.

"My study revealed that unemployed people were more likely to run up big mobile bills because of the need to build their self-esteem and be part of life.

"Similarly young people are lured by the social networking. Many feel that they are missing out if they are not constantly in the loop. Ironically these are two demographics who can least afford the massive bills."

Ms James says dependency on mobile phones can be difficult to pinpoint. But the key to controlling your phone use is to turn your mobile off regularly.

If you have more than fleeting thoughts about your phone when it is turned off, Ms James says, then that could be your warning sign.

The Sunday Mail asked three dedicated mobile users to spend a few days without their phones. Here's how they coped . . .

IAIN McGREGOR, 40, Gold Coast

Graphic design company director, father of two


Head to Brisbane to see friends and family at BBQ. Before we meet, I take kids to movie and couldn't phone my wife Lou to tell her when movie finished, so we had to make prior arrangements. You need to be organised when you have no phone! We were late to movie as I don't wear a watch – usually get time from my phone. Kids delighted they had my 100 per cent attention without phone calls.

Got lost on way to BBQ, which wouldn't normally happen as I can get directions on my iPhone. I don't own a Refidex. Aaargh!

Everyone worried about us because I couldn't call. Borrowed Refidex!


Off to Milton for breakfast. Kind of cool – no need to ring anyone, very relaxing. Back to Gold Coast.

My son Morgan bummed he couldn't play games on my phone to pass the time.


Left mobile with my studio manager in case of work emergencies.

During the week I realised I will have to be super organised at all times and punctual – that's a strain. But there was a great sense of achievement too.

At work I am lucky to have the internet, so was not entirely cut off.


Needed my phone desperately to find numbers of clients and friends. Time wasted looking them up on computer. My wife has probably found this all very annoying as she can't just ring me if something crops up.

Good thing is that I have been communicating with people face-to-face a lot more and I have enjoyed that.


Today I am feeling a sense of freedom. I have realised that 99 per cent of calls are not urgent.

My journeys in the car are not filled with endless chatter. I picked up the kids from school and we sang together. A whole lot of fun and something I realised I will do more often.

When I got home from work, had to nip back out to shops because Lou couldn't call me to pick up milk on way. Now that's annoying.


Social worker


Oops, running late to meet a friend for coffee and realise I can't just text to let her know! I guess before there were mobile phones we had to be firmer with our plans and much more punctual.

Dropping a friend back to her place after lunch, her partner tells me "Ben's just phoned me – he's locked out". Ben is my partner and regularly locks himself out of our unit. Usually he can just call me and I come to the rescue. This time he has a frustrating wait in the beautiful outdoors.


Have had to make a date to have a catch-up phone call with my mum. Very inconvenient. Can't just go about my business while making calls . . . need to stay home near phone.

Using the landline we ring back and forth – she doesn't pick up the first time, then I'm in the shower. I need to leave the house to do errands but can't. Very annoying!


Realise I haven't had a chance to tell anyone at work I'm not contactable via mobile. I worry that my boss might be texting to say I'm needed for a shift. I eventually relax – I have a good excuse, I am in the middle of a phone experiment . . . ha ha!

It's very rare that our landline rings, so it was a bit of a shock. I'm surprised to hear a young woman on the line – it's my best friend Em, yet I didn't recognise her voice – all so unfamiliar.

On Tuesdays she and I do tutoring with a refugee family; Emily's rung to let me know she has sinusitis and won't be going. Usually she would just text this but it's really nice to have a Monday night chat with her.

Often I find it really overwhelming when my phone's beeping with texts, especially in the evening after a long day at work when all I want to do is zone out.

What I don't like about my mobile phone is that people can get in touch with me anywhere anytime and it's often not a good time!


I'm stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I'm going to be late for work. Can't call to warn them. Get frustrated.

My partner and I keep in touch throughout the work day by texting – today I'm feeling a bit sad that we've lost this link and then "blip" an email from Ben pops up in my email in-box instead. Technology never fails us.

I need to organise lifts for tonight. That's a hassle. Don't have anybody's number – they are all in my phone. Also I realise how much I rely on my phone's calendar – my alarm rings as a reminder.

Later when Meg's picking me up, I wonder if she'll remember which driveway is mine in the dark – but can't just text my address in case.

She had been trying to ring me. I think this is more of a hassle for my friends than for me.

Seriously, I'm really starting to enjoy it!

LAUREL ENGLISH, 15, Fig Tree Pocket, student


This no-phone-for-a-week thing is going to be a piece of cake. It's about 10am and I have only just woken up, so that's part of the day over already. Easy.

It's 1pm and I take back that piece-of- cake remark. I have just realised that I need to tell a friend that she is supposed to be introducing an esteemed guest during our school careers conference next week. I can't text her and I don't have her home number.

When I think of it, I do use my phone quite a bit. I use it to double-check how I'm getting to and from school, I use it to remind friends of assignments that are due and I use it every time I catch public transport to let people know how far away I am. I think this will shape up to be a very interesting and somewhat annoying week.


I was sick and still at home today so not much need for a mobile. However I would have liked to text my friend to see what she is wearing to the first day of careers week. It's only day two without my mobile and I am already missing being able to send quick messages. It feels a little isolating.

Annoyance is definitely starting to set in.


Like a kid looking for candy I've just searched the entire house for my mobile. Finally found it on mum's bedside table. She must have felt the need to hide it knowing that I would come looking. I simply have to text my friend Rose to tell her I am having the most boring day ever being sick at home. I put in my pin code before managing to control myself.

Mum knows me only too well.

Can't phone my crazed Harry Potter fan-friend Millie to tell her I have finally given up my heathen ways to read the series. I'm thinking that Mum too will not be receiving my daily texts, so she will have no comic relief from the daily grind.

Days of Our Lives is making me lose my grip on reality! I need to contact someone. Surely it won't matter if I send one teeny weeny secret text? Will it? Will it?


Day four and I was at school today, so not much need to text or call anyone. However, it would have been convenient to have a mobile to arrange how I was getting home. I'm catching the bus, no the train, no I'm getting a lift. How am I getting home?

I can feel my stress levels rising. I can do without my phone for social reasons, well most of the time, but I must have it to work out the logistics of the day.


Everything was going fine, school had ended and I was waiting to be picked up. Kids hopped into their cars and zoomed off and eventually I was one of the only people left. Then it hit me; I was supposed to be on the train.

I was freaking out. I had to borrow a friend's phone to sort it out.

I thought I would be struck down by the No Phone fairy.


I embarked on this phone challenge thinking it would be easy-peasy. But it was harder than I thought. I have just turned my phone back on and the messages have been rolling in.

The week has been annoying, stressful and I really felt quite alone when I was stuck waiting for my mum to pick me up. Half the messages that rolled into my phone were from her, even though she knew I was doing the challenge!

Oh how I love you mobile phone!

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